You know that saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, it applies to your refrigerator, too.
Sure, whether you have a sleek Sub-Zero Pro or an ancient humdrum fridge speaks volumes about your budget. But it’s what’s on the insidethat says the most about your life—even, perhaps, the parts you try to hide.
“The food in your fridge says a lot about your lifestyle and how you prioritize food and health,” says Michele Sidorenkov, a trained chef and registered dietitian nutritionist who focuses on culinary nutrition.
We asked the experts to decode what some of the most common contents of a refrigerator say about you—and a few of these deductions might surprise you.
If you have farmer’s market bounty in your refrigerator…
Swiss chard. Ramps. Blueberries. Golden chanterelles. If you can open your fridge and survey a cornucopia of fresh, local foods, you should give yourself an A+.
“People who stock up on colorful fruits, real veggies [not canned] and fresh products may be more athletic, health-conscious, and care about themselves through food,” says Katie Ziskind, a therapist and owner of Wisdom Within Counseling Integrative, Holistic Marriage and Family Therapy in Niantic, CT.
No surprise, right? But now you just have to make sure you actually eat all that produce before it goes bad. (More on that later.)
If you have home-cooked leftovers in storage containers in your refrigerator…
“You’ll know immediately if someone cooks at home just by seeing what they have in the fridge,” Sidorenkov says.
And while your family may not be thrilled about eating leftovers, all those odds and ends in Rubbermaid containers indicate a strong family unit. According to a University of British Columbia study, cooking and eating at home brings families closer.
Hopefully, it’s healthy food, though—and remember that the contents of your freezer could undermine all your good work.
“A fridge full of fresh produce versus a freezer full of frozen mini-pizzas are two opposite ends of the spectrum,” Sidorenkov says.
If you have spray cheese, snack pudding, and pre-prepared meals in your refrigerator…
No judgment—those chemicals in processed foods make them taste delicious. But you might be craving these ready-made foods for reasons that go beyond your appetite.
“If your fridge is filled with processed foods, this may be a sign that you’re dealing with depression and aren’t very motivated around healthy eating,” Ziskind says.
Maybe you’re working way too much or going through a breakup. Whatever the reason, consider these types of food a wake-up call that you could be overwhelmed.
And all that overly sweet/salty/fatty food may be making things things worse.
“Eating processed foods and takeout can contribute to more depression and low self-esteem,” Ziskind notes.
If you have wilting kale, mushy cucumbers, and moldy strawberries in your refrigerator …
So you went to the farmer’s market, spent a bunch of cash, and never quite got around to using all the gorgeous organic produce you bought—which is now visibly dying in your crisper.
“Buying fresh produce and actually using it are two different things,” Sidorenkov notes. “Life happens, you’re too tired to cook, the kids don’t like the healthy food,” et cetera.
In other words, all that now-ready-for-the-compost food indicates that you have plenty of good intentions, but are seriously short on time.
If you have fat-free, sugar-free, and diet-free everything in your refrigerator …
Points for being conscious about what you put into your body, but “Someone who’s buying a lot of fat-free or sugar-free items [may be] trying to be healthy but might not know how to go about it,” Sidorenkov explains.
(“___-free” doesn’t mean calorie-free.)
Also, “A lot of ‘diet’ products are packaged or pre-prepared,” Sidorenkov points out. “Someone who has a lot of those items in their fridge probably doesn’t have a lot of time to cook, but is still making an effort to make ‘healthier’ food choices while eating from home.”
If you have only Greek yogurt in your refrigerator…
…or walnuts. Or string cheese. Or protein powder. If your fridge is only stocked with one type of food, even if it’s extra healthy, it might be time to take a close look at what else is going on in your life.
“Food issues, rigid choices, and limiting certain foods can be a sign of striving to feel safe through controlling food,” Ziskind explains. “Even if a person has food sensitivities, someone with a healthy inner landscape—mentally and emotionally— will still have a variety of real foods.”
If you have labeled, organized matching containers in your refrigerator…
Would Marie Kondo swoon over how precise the inside of your fridge is? Do you have color-coded containers? A system for doing things that you actually follow? Then “you’re likely a meal planner and someone who tends to have a Type A personality,” Sidorenkov says.
But you can take that as a compliment.
“You’ll know what’s for dinner two to three days ahead of time and prioritize cooking and eating at home,” Sidorenkov says.
Bonus: You probably also have very little food waste, since you know where everything is and can easily put your hands on leftovers.
If you have an old jar of pickles and a flat beer in your refrigerator…
Or maybe nothing at all.
If you’re an empty (or nearly empty) fridger, “You’re missing self-care,” Ziskind says. While it’s normal to empty out your food supply before a vacation, if yours is empty as a rule, “It can represent a go-go-go lifestyle, with lots of takeout or meals eaten out.”
Sounds fun, but the downside is, “You’re missing out on a homey, nurturing feel,” Ziskind argues. “If you spend a lot of time out of your home, your home may not feel like a home to you.”
It may be time to restock, physically and emotionally.